Recently, India won a diplomatic victory for itself when China called out Pakistan over the latter’s harbouring of terror entities in its soil during the ninth BRICS Summit in Xiamen, China. The statements of indignation from Beijing came as a pleasant overture for New Delhi given the emergent intimacy between Pakistan and China.
With regard to cornering Islamabad (or Rawalpindi, the Pakistan Army headquarters) over the issue of terror support, New Delhi can be satisfied to an extent. However, the chest thumping continues to be redundant insofar as finding a permanent solution is concerned.
The question, which saner minds in New Delhi need to ask is: will a single-pronged policy of calling out Pakistan in multilateral fora for its terror support work to resolve the issue?
In this context, India would do well to carefully listen and follow the reactions (to India’s snubbing of Pakistan) from across the border.
While the Pakistan Army Chief, Qamar Javed Bajwa during his speech at Pakistan’s National Defence Day, made a reference to Kashmir, he also alluded to resuming dialogue between both countries.
This is not the first time that the army chief has given such signals. In the past too, the Pakistan army has dropped subtle calls for dialogue, rather than confrontation. But, unfortunately, there has been no real shift in their policy on the ground.
Saner Voices In Pakistan
What New Delhi needs to pay attention to is the growing number of voices that are beginning to question Islamabad’s myopic approach towards India.
Post the BRICS Summit declaration, a number of Pakistani columnists, yet again, called Islamabad to move away from its zero sum approach towards its neighbouring countries. While a number of analysts have been arguing so for long, this was prominently visible recently.
Khurram Hussain in a column for Dawn stated:
“[…] within Pakistan, as a matter of official policy, violent militant groups have been nurtured, trained, supported and nestled within the general population for use as assets in an underground geopolitical game that we have tried to play in the region.China has added its voice to the list of those countries pointing out that the presence of militant groups in Pakistan is a problem.”
Hussain’s views were echoed by a Senior journalist, Imtiaz Alam, who is an advocate for closer ties with India for nearly two decades. Alam in a column for The News, argued that it is time for Pakistan to move away from the policies of Zia-Ul Haq, and follow the Chinese advice of having good relations with neighbouring countries.
Sane voices in Pakistan are often dismissed in India, as having no influence on the overall discourse. There is some truth in this, and it is also not off the mark to believe that even civilian governments have not shown sufficient teeth in taking on the military.
Yet, most of the Indian media washes out the sane commentary in Pakistan, and gives exposure to retired generals and hawkish journalists who then are meant to represent the whole of Pakistan. With minimal people-to-people links between both countries due to the strained relationship, views are gradually hardening on both sides.
Need For A Broader Bilateral Strategy
New Delhi should also think of broadening its approach, by looking at reviving people to people contact and more robust economic ties, at least through the Wagah-Attari land crossing to begin with. The Minister of External Affairs, Sushma Swaraj has facilitated medical visas for a number of Pakistanis through social media, something that has created a positive impression.
While it is true that India has numerous domestic and foreign policy priorities and there is a situation of political flux in Pakistan, New Delhi should seriously explore out of the box options of reaching out to Islamabad. The all-weather friendship between Islamabad and Beijing is here to stay, especially given the mutual economic interests. But, at the same time, there is enough discomfort in Pakistan, both with militancy as well as the supine approach towards Beijing. New Delhi needs to cash in on both.
Focusing on exposing Pakistan’s hand in sponsoring terrorism is important, but India’s Pakistan policy also needs to take into account stakeholders across the border who are not averse to a good relationship with India. Apart from this, if India continues to focus excessively on Pakistan in multilateral fora, it would end up hyphenating itself with Pakistan – something that the outside world has stopped a long time ago.
Tridivesh Singh Maini is a New Delhi-based policy analyst, and Assistant Professor of Diplomatic Practice at Jindal School of International Affairs, Sonepat, India.
Views expressed here are the author’s own, and do not represent any editorial line.